Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day: our favourite Canadian reads from the last 12 months

In honour of Canada Day, I asked the bloggers at The Reader—avid readers of Canadian books all—a question: what was your favourite Canadian read since last Canada Day? Here—in their own words—is what they told me:

Louise said she found it hard to pick just one book, but in the end she settled on Death At Christy Burke's (M) by Anne Emery. "This book is the sixth in the popular Halifax-based Monty Collins and Father Brennan Burke series.  I am a huge fan of this series and Emery's books are always a terrific read. She never fails to lead me on a merry ride of clues and sub-plots that leave me wanting more even when the crime is resolved.   In this installment Anne Emery takes her regular cast of characters on a trip to Ireland in the early 1990s. "

Maureen on the other hand said that the choice was easy. "My favourite Canadian read of the last twelve months has to be A World Elsewhere (M) by Wayne Johnston and has been blogged about here.I will say again that I am drawn repeatedly to Johnston's books because of his compelling and engaging characters, his humour, and his clever word play.  In A World Elsewhere Landish Druken convinces his sealing captain father to send him to Princeton. There he meets wealthy Padgett "Van" Vanderluyden whose selfishness has a devastating effect on Druken's life. The novel is set in a mansion in North Carolina and a hovel in St. John's, Newfoundland and can be described as gothic, melodramatic and compulsively readable."

Dave admitted he finds it hard to keep up on the newest releases but he still wanted to mention a title, and coincidentally he also picked something by Wayne Johnston! "Although not a recent book, my favourite Canadian read from the past year is The Navigator of New York (M). It employs the author’s usual mix of fact with fiction, chronicling the early 20th century race to reach the North Pole. Devlin, the central character, survives a tragic but quiet Newfoundland childhood, only to get caught up in the intrigue and adventure of these competitive Arctic expeditions after a mysterious letter arrives from New York. I appreciate Johnston’s ability to capture the turn-of-the-century small-town mentality of rural Atlantic Canada, and to juxtapose it with the exotic city life that draws in his characters. Their complicated motives and ambitions kept me glued to this book, and the overhanging mystery of Devlin’s family and their connections to the Arctic explorers he falls in with added a whole other level of suspense to the ambitious storyline."

David also selected an east coast novel for his favourite Canadian read: Deluded Your Sailors (M) by Michelle Butler Hallett. "A story that has really stuck with me. The character of Capt. Kit/Anne totally captivated my imagination. I find myself still thinking of her. Settings include both modern and early 18th century Newfoundland. It was the historical plot line that resonated the most for me: full of colourful characters; fascinating period details; and an energy that propels the reader forward."

Doreen is one of our newest bloggers—you'll be hearing more from her in the coming months. In response to my call for favourite Canadian reads, she let me know: "Late last year I read The Guardians (M) by Andrew Pyper. It is a mysterious thriller; psychological.  It kept me wondering and guessing until the end."

Zoe's been on more of a practical/nonfiction kick, and she thought this one was worth a mention: The Beginning Runner's Handbook: the proven 13-week RunWalk program (M) by Ian MacNeill and the Sport Medicine Council of British Columbia."I've recently starting running to supplement my martial arts training and so I've been seeking guidance on how to run properly. I run in minimalist shoes, which requires a very different technique than what is taught in the book, but I found it helpful nonetheless. It would be a good starting place for people who want to run conventionally and would benefit from an established program associated with a trusted sport/medical body."

Lynne has recently written a post devoted to her favourite Canadian novel of the last little while. Confined Space (M) is the debut mystery by Deryn Collier. Check out Lynne's full review here.

And now I suppose I have to apply my challenge to myself. Like some of my fellow bloggers I found it hard to narrow it to just one book and in the end, despite many of the great novels I've read in the last year, I think my favourite Canadian book is a nonfiction one that articulately discusses an issue that I've become more and more passionate about in recent times. Straphanger: saving our cities and ourselves from the automobile (M) by Taras Grescoe is a book that talks about public transit and its role in creating successful cities. What I liked most about it was its focus on the positive: it looked mostly at places that have successfully addressed transit issues and transformed their cities.

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